A look 15 years from now

Published 3:15 pm Friday, April 10, 2009

Put on your rose-colored glasses or whatever you use to peer into the future. Let’s do some dreaming.

But first, let’s have a look back.

The Bainbridge City Council in its retreat a few weeks ago came up with a wish list of projects and programs for a 15-year long range view of the town’s future.

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I have given this some thought. How will our fair city appear 15 years from now, 2024? But first, let’s review from whence we came since 15 years ago, 1994.

Faye and I came to Bainbridge in 1991, 18 years ago. And in those 18 years, Bainbridge has had it both ways—lots of change, and lots of status quo.

It was a quiet town in 1991. My first week here, a real estate lady showed us five houses. None tickled our fancy. A few months later, another real estate lady came by to give us another tour. She showed us the same five houses. Real estate inventory in 1991 offered few choices. In order to officially become residents of Bainbridge, we bought the house, which in other communities, would have been third on a selection list, then lived in it for nine years, the longest we have ever possessed a house, and the longest tenure in a community.

So real estate has changed. Since then, we have seen new subdivisions slowly blossom, new home designs, and an active market with a variety of selections available for newcomers.

So what else has changed?

Well, there was no Wal-Mart or Home Depot, two of the nation’s major retailers. Community events, club lunches, wedding receptions and other functions, gathered at The Charter House Inn, until recently, the only commercial structure at the intersection of the bypass and Highway 27 south. Look at it today.

Over the years, we have seen the courthouse remodeled and restored, millions spent on new or refurbishing schools, record enrollments and expansion at Bainbridge College, remodeling and expanding the hospital, attracting new medical and other professional people, added new ball fields, tennis courts and soccer fields, a variety of new restaurants, a renovation of the historic firehouse. We have quasi government commissions preserving trees, historic buildings and downtown activities. We have joined the prestigious list of Main Street Cities.

Population growth has been rather moderate, and new job growth has had its ups and downs, mostly downs today with record unemployment. That has to be addressed, bigtime, which it is.

There has been a steady investment in renewal of rundown retail areas, clearing and rebuilding anew on eyesore commercial plots, activities centered on restoring from within rather than building from without.

We have completed several needed projects moving from outdated and older buildings, constructing new and bigger and more modern structures to house on-going programs. Witness the new 4-H live stock arena at the fairgrounds as an example or the new high school.

So what about the next 15 years?

Council will be exploring five areas of work—a safe and secure community, transportation, environment, growth and development, and recreation.

While the city council has its own concepts of directions they may wish to take us, those of us on the outside may have some ideas of our own among those categories.

While we can list all of the above as progress, we have a deep-seated problem in this community which must be addressed—crime.

Having a safe and secure community should be paramount.

Crime is going from bad to worse. We are losing our city to the thugs of the streets.

We have drive-by shootings, innocent bystanders being shot or killed from gunfire, brazen murders, drug deals and dealers, knifings, riots and beatings of innocent people, and home invasions to name a few of after midnight activities.

We cannot allow our fair city to be taken over by the thugs. If you want a city of the future, where residential, commercial and industrial investments thrive, then you want safe neighborhoods and safe streets before and after midnight. We must get a handle on crime, before it totally inundates every thing we do.

Crime comes from residents in substandard or crowded housing. We have lots of homes many of us would not even consider hanging our hats in. These substandard neighborhoods must be rehabilitated too, so responsible residents there can live in a safe and wholesome environment, raising their children to be constructive rather than destructive citizens.

So here are a few of my visions.

Job growth is essential. We need to get people working again. Law enforcement must be enhanced to make our streets safe. Perhaps the time is near to separate the police and fire departments.

Those improvement projects that occurred during the past 15 years, will continue, as more and more young people become involved. Opportunities should be abundant to allow our graduates to live and prosper in their own home town. Laws on the books that could be considered anti-business should be reviewed. Business must be allowed to be competitive, now that the big retailers take most of sales dollars.

Mostly, we all should be aware of how we want Bainbridge to appear in 15 years. That means more community involvement, more input to city council, and a greater awareness of what is happening all around us.